Patients' records set to go digital in 2014

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am

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A two-month consultation has begun on a scheme for the public and private medical sectors to share patients' health records electronically, with criminal penalities for privacy breaches.

A draft law requires doctors to get patients' consent before accessing their information, and doctors will be banned from using the information for any purpose not related to treatment and care.

Launching the consultation yesterday, Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said the scheme aimed to reduce duplication, and: 'Since [patients' records] involve sensitive information, criminal penalties will be required.'

The law is expected to be passed in the financial year 2013-14, and the city-wide programme is expected to be launched in 2014. Doctors will be able to read a patient's complete record, with a password generated after their consent form is submitted, but only limited information can be downloaded, including name, sex, address and drug-allergy records.

The patient will be notified by mobile phone text message each time a doctor accesses the record, the government's eHealth Record Head, Janice Tse Siu-wa, said.

The city's 12 public hospitals have agreed to join the scheme, and 170,000 patients have been taking part in a pilot project since 2006.

Cheung Tak-hai, vice-chairman of the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisations, one of the groups the government consulted in drawing up the scheme, said he was satisfied with the security system and that patients' reactions were generally positive, especially among those who took part in the pilot project.

The scheme, which has been discussed since 2008, is estimated to cost HK$1.1 billion.